When we moved to Northeast Iowa last year I knew an epic roadtrip was in our future. This New Jersey girl had never lived so far west before and when I saw that we were only 12 hours from Mt. Rushmore I was in! The plan was to see the top attractions in the area – Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, Custer State Park and Devils Tower in Wyoming.
So once January hit I planned our trip. I knew that we were about a 6 hour drive from Sioux Falls, roughly half way to Mt. Rushmore. So I decided we would spend one night there and then hit the Badlands National Park the next day on the way to Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.
Stopping in Sioux Falls ended up being a great idea. We had gotten a late start on the road and by the time we rolled into town we only had time to see the city’s namesake attraction – a beautiful waterfall that runs through the middle of town. Bryce was able to run and stretch his legs which also made it a great kids stop!
We stayed at a Residence Inn. Which thank goodness we had a small kitchen there since the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast due to COVID. So we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some things to eat and had a relaxing night. Early the next day we got on the road to make it to the Badlands for our first western adventure.
The Badlands were amazing and we did get a chance to hike a little. But not nearly enough time was spent there. We definitely want to go back and spend the night so we can do more of the trails and explore the area more. It truly is beautiful. And after driving just endless highway roads a very welcome sight! Lol. Bryce also got a kick out of feeding some Prairie dogs at a roadside attraction by the park entrance.
By the time we left the badlands it was mid afternoon. We decided to stop at Wall Drug and it was every bit the touristy attraction I thought it would be. 😂 Good restroom break anyway. We got back onto the road and headed into the black hills. I had decided to book two nights at a glamping campground called Under Canvas. I had never been glamping before and the location is literally 5 minutes from Mt. Rushmore. A tent with a real bed and a bathroom is my type of “roughing it.” We loved the experience but I don’t think I will become a die hard tent 🏕 camper anytime soon. I didn’t realize how cold it can get at night there – 49 degrees in June! Needless to say we used the wood furnace both nights we were there! I highly recommend the place though if you have thought about trying “glamping.” The furniture in the tents made it feel like we were on Safari and the bathroom was very spacious with a barn door for privacy. We had a good location near the main reception tent so that is something to think about when you book if you are like me and need your caffeine to get going in the morning. They do provide complimentary coffee and tea, and they also provide s’mores at night which was nice. I did miss having our own campfire at the tent, but they did have a few campfires spread throughout the campground for people to use to make their s’mores and hang out.
Under Canvas Mt. Rushmore
We booked a Deluxe Tent with Hive. The main tent had a King Size Bed and we added a cot for Bryce. The 2nd tent was for Brian’s mom who came with us. But because it was so cold at night we ended up moving her bed into our tent and just all slept that way. It was amazing how big the tent was to fit so many of us but it definitely made the space cramped. So my suggestion to you if you book is to check the weather 😂 and bring extra blankets. One of the more surprising parts of this experience was the food! They have an actual trained chef running their onsite food truck and he supplied us with amazing breakfasts and dinners that we ate on our patio. Which I also loved by the way ❤️. Having coffee on the patio while staring at the forest is something I could do every day!
Since we were so close to Mt. Rushmore we were able to see the lighting ceremony the first night and then we went back the next morning to walk around and explore what we could. Unfortunately they were during construction while we were there so we couldn’t do the mountain trail. But it was amazing to see and experience. Highly recommend not rushing through this monument and taking some time to explore. There is a little museum onsite that explains the history of the build and there were National Park Rangers throughout that answered any questions we had.
That afternoon we spent some time in Keystone and did some gem mining there which Bryce loved. We also got to take him to Reptile Gardens which actually was very nice and Bryce loved getting to see snakes and other animals that he had never seen before. It is the largest reptile zoo in the nation. After two days there we checked out of Under Canvas and headed to Custer State Park, stopping at Crazy Horse Memorial on the way.
As you can see from our pictures we kept busy! Definitely you will not get bored. I am glad we stayed a full week in the area even if we didn’t get a chance to do everything we wanted! This wraps up Part 1 of our trip. Part 2 I will go into what we did at Custer State Park and show you the Cabin we rented for the week. Keep adventuring my friends!